WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Illinois Auto Sales Suffered During Stay At Home Period

Jun 9, 2020

Automobile dealers in Illinois were among the hardest hit businesses during the state's COVID-19 stay-at-home period.

Estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau shows auto dealers lost as much as $33 billion dollars in sales nationwide compared to last year. A report from a state commission, meanwhile, shows both Apple Map route queries and new vehicle registrations were down by more than half compared to last year.

Illinois Automobile Dealers Association president Pete Sander said car sales are starting to improve, but not quickly enough.

“I think until we get some type of a vaccine..I don’t think anyone knows what the new normal is going to be," he said. "That’s kind of how we’re trying to gear the dealerships up: to do as much as they can to provide services."

Illinois usually sells hundreds of thousands of cars in a given period, but Sander explained sales were cut in half at one point in April.

All that lost business for car shops doesn’t seem like much, but it’s a big deal for state revenue: auto sales account for as much as 18 percent of all sales taxes. That’s millions of dollars the state usually would have by now, but won’t be getting for some time.

While some consumers have returned to in-person car buying now that the practice is allowed during Phase Three, Sander said the state's car sellers are having to get creative to reach more of them.

“They’re servicing vehicles. They’re picking them up for customers. They’re delivering them to the customer’s home. They’re disinfecting before and after," he said.

All Illinois car dealers are allowed to fully reopen, but must have strict mask wearing and social distancing policies in place.